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U.S. Rebuked Over Tape for Moussaoui

November 07, 2002|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The federal judge overseeing the terrorist trial of Zacarias Moussaoui chastised government prosecutors Wednesday for giving a blank videotape to Moussaoui, after he asked for a copy of a broadcast interview with an alleged organizer of last year's Sept. 11 attacks.

Moussaoui, 34, is accused of conspiring with 19 members of suicide teams to commit terrorism, hijack aircraft and kill more than 3,000 people in four jetliners, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Moussaoui had asked for a videotape of a broadcast interview with Ramzi Binalshibh, who was interviewed in June over two days in Pakistan by an Al Jazeera investigative reporter. Days after the broadcast, Binalshibh was captured in Pakistan.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said that the government's handing over the blank tape was "an inexcusable error, which must be corrected immediately." Moussaoui had complained in a sealed court filing Tuesday about the blank tape.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment about the tape.

Investigators believe that Binalshibh, a Yemeni, was a member of a Hamburg, Germany-based terrorist cell led by Mohamed Atta, the suspected leader of the hijackings. Binalshibh unsuccessfully sought to enter the United States at least four times before Sept. 11 but was refused a visa, and allegedly sent $14,000 to Moussaoui and others from Germany.

Prosecutors disclosed earlier that a charred business card found at the Sept. 11, 2001, crash site in Shanksville, Pa., bore a handwritten address in Germany that was connected to a telephone number belonging to Binalshibh. They said Moussaoui also had called the phone number at that address.

The judge said court papers outlining Moussaoui's complaint about the blank tape were being kept sealed because they were "replete with irrelevant and inflammatory rhetoric, including messages to third parties and a prayer for the destruction of the United States."

Moussaoui, who is representing himself, is set to stand trial June 30.

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